Georgia preparing limited live CBDC pilot, considering Ripple among tech providers

As the country is considered for EU membership, the digital lari is seen as providing interoperability with a digital euro while preserving monetary freedom.

The National Bank of Georgia (NBG) has announced that it will advance its research on a digital lari central bank digital currency (CBDC) in a limited-access live pilot environment. Nine companies, including Ripple Labs, will take part in the project, and one of them will be selected to move forward to the next stage of testing.

In a paper released in February, the NBG stated that it was considering a two-tier design for its CBDC, with wallets provided by a third party. It would be programmable and support asset tokenization.

In an interview in June, NBG’s head of fintech, Varlam Ebanoidze, said that use cases for a digital lari, or GEL, include the provision of agricultural insurance and automation of real estate transactions. He added:

“We are thinking about integration into the European Union and we want to be interoperable with the digital euro, but have monetary freedom.”

The NBG announced that it was considering issuing a CBDC in May 2021, without providing a timeline for it. The NBG announced in January that it was soliciting expressions of interest from fintech firms to participate in a limited live pilot.

Related: Georgian central bank prepares legislation to regulate the crypto market

The NBG announced on Sept. 8 that it would participate as an observer in the Bank of International Settlements’ (BIS) Project mBridge — which involves China, Hong Kong, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates — joining about 10 other observer countries. It said it would also “leverage knowledge and expertise” from the BIS’s Project Aurum.

In addition to Ripple, the pilot’s participants include Augentic, Bitt, Broxus Holdings, Currency Network, DCM, eCurrency Mint, FARI Solutions and Sovereign Wallet. Ripple is known to be involved in CBDC projects around the world, active in countries such as Colombia, Montenegro, Hong Kong, Bhutan and Palau.

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